Three Poems


“Salon” and “Dry” are by Debby Geis and John Grayson, “He, Not Him” is by Debby Geis and Karen Wurl.


You must have thought that I was having more simple gender confusion
more than simple species confusion
when I brushed past your leg that first time
You must have thought that I was humping your leg
like a canine or feline or some orphaned bastard of evolution
But I was making myself into a bilge pump
to drain your oceans
and put you in dry dock
I was the Archdyke of Knoxville
but you can call me “duchess”

if you do what you’re told,
put your finger in the hole
and keep it there, at least till teatime;
you can help yourself, we don’t stand on ceremony here—
we just stand on carpets, our lap dogs supervising our manicures,
tapping “no” in Morse code, in doggerel, when we choose the day-glo lacquer,
paying our lackeys to blow us dry
while they murmur, “Your highness, do you take cream with that?” and
“Would that be one lump or two?” My lap dog is Penelope,
waiting on the pier, staring at the dead lake,
hoping I’ll come home so she can put on the kettle.


When I hear water rushing in downspouts, I think of you and touch my hand to my lips,
thinking that I’m flattering you by motioning in this way, to draw part of you, to make
my lips shine, to show you an image of yourself, as I might read your palms.

Mostly, though, I think that I’m whispering a covenant again tirelessly, letting these
thoughts of you soak into dry lips, licking the insides of my mouth, remembering the way
we used to wear silk and silt and salt.

And if you draw back from my touch like one of those tropical plants that thrives in
hothouses and jungles but that turns brown with too much or too little water or attention,
You should know that only when I’m in the desert can I bring you back the way I really
wanted you, sweating in my tent with me at night, slashing through my mosquito net to
take me while I’m sleeping, laughing when the bugs come to suck our blood,
You think you’ve trapped me on your bedouin mattress, pinned me down with your
other specimens, stranded me in the rain forest during the dry season, left me sobbing in
the trailer park while the crickets sing and mock me at night.
But I know you, I know you’ll come back, for every time it rains, I go outside and tilt
my head back, letting the water run straight down from the drainpipe to my mouth, my
guttermouth reminding me of you, of all those words you taught me, and the way they
tasted on your lips each time I took them from you with my tongue

He, Not Him

He goes to school so he talks like that.
Takes his time, thinks I like his ratty sweater,
takes it off, says he’s

the best I’ve ever had, isn’t
that right? Yeah. I’m so lucky. He’s gonna
be somebody. I’ll say I knew him when.
He let me in
on the ground floor.
He let me in on

his dirty little secret, sale
of the century, and I bought.
I bit. I take his mind off
his work, he says, and that’s
a good thing, he says, but not
now, he has to work would I
not minding
so god damn much, would I mind
getting my mind off
getting his mind on

Don’t mind me. I’m the last thing
on his mind. I’ll just
sit here. I’ll just
when I see him in the café
with the girl I’ve never seen
before but she looks so
familiar. When I see him with that girl

with the clear white skin
and the straight white teeth
the clean white thoughts
When I see him touch her shoulder
like she was made out of real
ingredients. I’m not like her. A package deal.
I’m too oblique
For my own good,
I’m too unique.
I hate myself

for wanting to apologize, and doing so
in no
uncertain terms. Oh yes,
I’m sorry. Yes I am.

Sorry he can’t see
I could be a Hostess Snack Cake
If I could just learn to smile
in all the right places
And sorry I minded
so much, so soon
when he drew the blinds
and he talked like that.

Note on the Collaboration from Debby Geis: My fellow performance poets and I composed these poems well before instant messaging, texting, or Facebook ever existed. There was a kind of magic in receiving an email, which appeared on the screen in those days with no images or other froufrou, and adding a few new lines or a whole new stanza and sending it back. I thank John (“Devil Bat”) Grayson and slammer extraordinaire Karen Wurl for allowing me to dust off the cobwebs and for sharing in the spontaneous joy of composition.

La Coupe Obscure